Beach conditions become dangerous as Hurricane Hermine approaches coast

Posted September 1, 2016 5:20 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:04 p.m. EDT

— Vacationers were enjoying the beach Thursday while keeping an eye on the weather as Hermine moved closer to the North Carolina coast.

Skies remained sunny on Wrightsville Beach Thursday afternoon, however lifeguards said the moments leading up to a storm can be the most dangerous because the weather is beautiful but the conditions in the water are not ideal.

Earlier Thursday, lifeguards issued a yellow flag warning, meaning there was a medium risk for rip currents in the water. At about 4 p.m., a red flag warning was issued due to a high risk of rip currents.

Lifeguards said the red flag will likely stay out until Monday.

“Before and after, that is generally when we have the most issues because, again, you have beautiful weather conditions but you have large swells, large breaking waves and extremely strong rip currents,” said Lt. Jon Mauney with Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue. "This is a recipe for disaster and it can go downhill extremely quickly."

For those on the beach Thursday afternoon, the sun and blue skies made it hard to imagine the storm was on the horizon.

"Today is a little bit rougher but yesterday it was real smooth, real calm," said visitor Mike Thomas of the ocean.

New Hanover County emergency officials are preparing for high winds and flooding and said high tide could make conditions worse as it mixes with five to 10 inches of rain.

Hermine rainfall projections

“Hopefully folks are taking it very seriously and we would ask that they take every storm serious to air on the side of caution,” said Charles Smith with New Hanover Emergency Management.

Officials are particularly worried about tornadoes, especially because the worst part of the storm is expected to happen during the overnight hours.

"Folks at night are less likely to be watching media where tornado warnings come very quickly, so we do encourage the use of NOAA weather radios. Battery powered radios are great to have during any tropical event with the possibility of losing power," Smith said.

Elsewhere, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to declare a State of Emergency and implemented a mandatory evacuation for visitors to Ocracoke Island. Visitor access to the island will be restricted until further notice, officials said.

All Cape Hatteras National Seashore visitor services, including the campground, visitor center, bookstore and lighthouse on Ocracoke Island were closed Thursday evening until further notice.